Monday, June 13, 2011

Underdone

The school budget is close to being finalized.  The Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) did not step up to the plate, giving only an additional $750,000 and causing everyone to have to swallow their bile to "thank them for the additional funds" when in point of fact, their level of funding has hurt our children.  They didn't touch their fund balance of over $12 million.  The school system's is down to a little over $2 million.  They also claim that they "don't fire teachers" and in fact have no line-item veto power, yet they scrutinize every aspect of the budget and demand that the Board of Education (BoE) justify its request for additional funding in minute detail.  They are quoted as making suggestions for what can be cut, suggestions that show little understanding of the legal constraints that govern a public school system.

The school system will furlough employees next year for three days.  My understanding was that these days would be professional development days, which may fit with what was said recently, that the days would be worked in around weekends or holidays.  Since the additional $750,000  went towards teacher salaries (un-pink-slipping 16 employees), some people seem to be satisfied with accepting the furlough days as the lesser of two evils.  While I don't disagree with that, the furlough days, if they are indeed professional development days, will remove most of my hope that staff will receive the training that is so desperately needed in this county, especially training related to autism spectrum disorders, executive functioning, social skills, and twice-exceptional students.

At the last BoE meeting (last week), one board member suggested that in upcoming talks with the BoCC, the BoE should point out the obligations and legal constraints of special education and Race to the Top in order to help the BoCC better understand the funding needs of the school system.  I hope that this happens.  I'm considering if/how to offer support from the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Special Education (CACSE) and the Autism Spectrum Support Group of Southern Maryland.  Nine of us from one, the other, or both spoke to the BoCC in April in support of increased funding for the school system.  I'm not sure what we could do... Would personal stories of the educational needs of our children help? CACSE meets next week.  Perhaps we can brainstorm on the topic.

Today was the last full day of school.  Three early dismissal days follow before my children become rising 9th and 6th graders.  My son has an all-day class trip to an amusement park tomorrow; his sister and I will be doing all the last-minute preparations for our graduation present to her -- tickets to a Katy Perry concert -- on Wednesday.  Wednesday morning is my son's promotion ceremony, which pretty much shoots the entire morning, and my daughter's promotion ceremony is Thursday morning -- ditto on shooting the morning.  I'm not liking this roller coaster week.

And today we got in the mail a bill from my son's school for $83.25 to replace his "mutilated" Spanish book.  I believe smoke was coming out of my ears.  However, he has already paid off $47 of the debt in three trips to GameStop this evening to sell back his video games.  He'll be working off the rest of it next week.  I truly do not understand the psyche of an 8th-grade boy.


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